The Justice Department’s inspector general acknowledged this in a report that was released last Thursday. Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz explained that in the years spanning from 2004 to 2009, the FBI increased their spying under Section 215 of the Patriot Act by three times.
This included forcing businesses to turn over records and documents, and spying on Americans with no clear ties to any official terrorist organizations or terrorism investigations.
But in spite of all that added spying, they couldn’t point to one single case that was solved, or one single terrorist act that was thwarted through the use of these Patriot Act provisions. Anything that they solved or prevented was done using traditional techniques and tactics for solving crime, without relying on Patriot Act dirty tricks.
“The agents we interviewed did not identify any major case developments that resulted from the use of the records obtained in response to Section 215 orders,” the inspector general said.
He nevertheless said that he wants Section 215 to remain and that he views the information they gather through it as “valuable” even though it wasn’t actually solving any crimes. He added that the powers under Section 215 should be expanded, to provide even more information like that which they have been gathering – which admittedly has not solved any crimes, or prevented any terrorist attacks.
“While the expanded scope of these requests can be important uses of Section 215 authority, we believe these expanded uses require continued significant oversight,” Horowitz concluded.
FBI Director James B. Comey also made a request to Congress this week that Section 215 along with two other parts of the Patriot Act are preserved and bolstered. Both are due to expire at the end of this month without renewal.
“If we lose that authority, which I don’t think is controversial with folks, that is a big problem,” he argued Wednesday during a forum on terrorism and surveillance at the Georgetown University Law Center.
But opponents like Alex Abdo of the American Civil Liberties Union think otherwise. “This report adds to the mounting evidence that Section 215 has done little to protect Americans and should be put to rest,” he said.
Stephen Kohn, an attorney at Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto, LLP and advocate for government whistleblowers said that “they have a large number of agents who are working counterterrorism that have no human resources, no leads, no infiltrations, so they have nothing else to do. In other words, when they staffed up and made [counterterrorism] a major priority, these agents need to do something. And they’re doing what they know to do, and that’s electronic surveillance.”
(Article by M. David and Reagan Ali)